Scott Hanselman

Microsoft Fingerprint Reader - a Mini Review

February 09, 2005 Comment on this post [17] Posted in Reviews
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Fingerprint2I picked up a Microsoft Fingerprint Reader, which is a Digital Persona straight re-brand.

I'm seriously digging it. The registration process (shown at left) is fantastic. It's smooth, it's accurate and best of all it's simple.

Once you've clicked a few fingers and registered it, you can use any finger you want to indicate that it's you.

If you're on a web page with a name/password dialog when you touch the reader, you're prompted to enter your combo. After that, the software will automatically enter your password when you touch the reader. You can also touch the reader first, then pick what page you'd like to visit.

Either way, I've stopped entering passwords since I got this little gem. I've plugged it into the USB Hub on my DELL LCD Monitor, so it's always at hand (no pun intended) and it doesn't take up a USB Root Port on the main system.

Good Things:

  • It integrates with the Windows XP Ctrl-Alt-Del Login or Welcome Screen without changing it.
  • Non-intrusive and stays our of your way. No modal dialogs.
  • It's shiny

Bad Things:

  • You could cut off my finger, go to my house and log into my machine. Ah, but which finger!? I gotcha, evil doers. Unless, you take the whole hand. Er. Ick.
  • I can't figure out from the super-simple interface where to EDIT or DELETE an existing password. It must be there, and it's mentioned in the help, but I swear, I can't find it.
  • Rare: If you already have a Ctrl-Alt-Del replacement, perhaps for VPN software like Cisco, you can't use the reader for your primary login.
  • Can be spoofed if you use a gummy bear with ridges cut to register your fingers initially.

It's definitely worth the money and I use it every day.

Now playing: Eve - Gotta Man

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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February 09, 2005 9:26
I've had one for a while Scott - I agree it works great.

It doesn't however work with a domain controller based login (according to the docs).
I'm using it at home so thats not a big deal but soon as they fix that I'll be putting a couple in the office too!
February 09, 2005 9:38
Hmm .. except those back/next buttons look very macintoshy.
February 09, 2005 11:56
Yeah I even had to read the fine manual (online) to figure out how to delete the password settings (hint: click on the funky hand icon that appears in the IE title bar for 'known' pages)

My wife has accepted it and shock horror even approves.

My kids will learn to loathe me now everyone has strong password with no more 'forgotten it' techsupport (aka me) calls.

February 09, 2005 12:09
Sahil - The mac-like buttons and theme are ME, not the Fingerprint reader. I run StyleXP using a Panther Theme. Most of my screen shots look like that and freak people out.

Steve - How incredibly NOT intuitive. Thanks!
February 09, 2005 18:24
Call me paranoid, but the thing that bothers me about this type of thing is identity theft. What if somehow your digitized fingerprint gets stolen? You can't just change your fingerprint like you can your password. You are basically screwed. It’s probably not a huge risk for your personal use, but it brings the concept of “identity theft” to a WHOLE new level.
February 09, 2005 18:55
To edit, you need to go to the website that you auth'ed for and click the little icon in the window menu by the max, close, min buttoms.

You can also open the settings file and edit the .ini file where the settings are stored.

%USERPROFILE%\Application Data\DigitalPersona\OTS
February 09, 2005 19:44
Now if it only worked with Firefox..
February 09, 2005 21:47
I have the same setup,

Here is what I hate:
- No firefox support,.... WTF?
- Does not work w/ a domain controller environment (all offices and some homes right????)
- After a week or two w/ no reboot, seems like it gets slower.

But I love it and use it numerous times per day.

February 09, 2005 22:01
This looks very nice and I would love to get one of these things for my work machine, except the domain controller restriction and to some extent the firefox issue would prevent it from being much use to me right now. Hopefully those issues will be addressed in a future update/release.
February 09, 2005 22:25
Scott - can you clarify this part: "you're prompted to enter your combo".

What does that mean? You have to enter a password? I thought the whole point of this thing was to avoid entering passwords manually?
February 09, 2005 23:05
You only enter the Password ONCE, then it rememebers it. When you touch it later, it enters the password for you.
February 10, 2005 0:44
I love the fine print on the box- something to the effect of "don't actually use this to secure anything important". Check it out- it's worth a laugh, basically MS doing a little CYA by saying, "it's just a toy".
February 10, 2005 21:51
Another bad thing: passwords are much more easily forgotten if you never have to enter them. So I guess if you use this, make sure its only for passwords you already have engraved in your memory.

Just like speed dial in my cell phone - I don't think I remember one friend's phone number. Without the phone that holds all my numbers, I can't get ahold of anyone. I need to start writing numbers down on paper... old skool...
February 11, 2005 6:41
Rich - I have the same problem re numbers.
People ask me my home phone number and I'm all "urgh. Hold on.."

the day I lose the phone is going to be a bad one
February 13, 2005 20:31
Gummi Fingers!!
Go to the bottom part of the article about faking it.

But seriously.. where's the SDK the developer in me asks? :P
February 20, 2005 17:35
I bought this high-tech device today and I love it !
April 05, 2005 22:23
Yes, this fingerprint reader is great!!! I hope to see lots of future software to integrate with it, digital persona have development kits available I believe.
How many times have I heard people chattin about it not working with some other crappy non-microsoft browser, wow, big deal. I would never use anything other than Internet Explorer 6 anyway, at least I trust that its secure!
Anyway, this is a great product, the only site I have found it not to work with is part of my internet bank (I know, I just wanted to try it), the user ID must be special embedded html because the reader doesnt recognize it as a login page!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.